Gradual change in seasons creates the best time to view bald eag - KPTV - FOX 12

Gradual change in seasons creates the best time to view bald eagles in the Gorge

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Young eagles don't yet have the tell-tale white head and neck that mature bald eagles do. (KPTV) Young eagles don't yet have the tell-tale white head and neck that mature bald eagles do. (KPTV)
(KPTV) (KPTV)
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR (KPTV) -

As winter melts slowly into spring, the gradual change in seasons creates a rare opportunity for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to see bald eagles up close.

The Balfour-Klickitat trailhead, just east of the Klickitat River, is home this time of year to dozens of bald eagles, who come to feast on the carcasses of Chinook salmon who journey up the Columbia River and its tributaries to spawn.

"I've counted up to 50 at one time. Just all over these trees," said Robin Dobson, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

The chance of seeing the birds in action depends on the day, and the approach. Hikers that try to get too close run the risk of scaring the birds away, but a trail that leads to an eagle blind offers a good view of the birds from above.

"Some will be on the ground near the water eating, some will be in the trees, and they'll fuss around with each other and chase each other. It's a lot of fun," said Dobson.

American bald eagles were driven nearly to the point of extinction in the 1960s, with only 417 nesting pairs left in the wild at that time.

The bird was finally taken off the list of threatened and endangered wildlife in 2007.

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